HBO series looks at the rise and fall of Baltimore Police Department's Gun Trace Task Force - Albuquerque Journal

HBO series looks at the rise and fall of Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force

Lucas Van Engen, right, in a scene from “We Own This City,” which airs on HBO. (Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

Anticipation is off the charts as Lucas Van Engen waits for the HBO series “We Own This City” to premiere.

It’s been a project that he’s worked on tirelessly alongside his cast.

But today, Van Engen is dealing with a problem.

“My Instagram account was hacked and I’m trying to recover it,” he says. “This all happens before the premiere. How am I supposed to let people know about the series?”

Joking aside, the Instagram problem is small and will resolve itself. Van Engen is looking forward to the reaction from audiences as the series premiered on April 25.

“It’s been a journey with the series,” he says. “One that wasn’t ever on my radar. I felt lucky to get the audition and even luckier to be cast in the series.”

“We Own This City” is based on the book “We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops and Corruption” by Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton.

The highly anticipated drama stars Jon Bernthal, Dagmara Dominczyk, Domenick Lombardozzi, Treat Williams, Don Harvey and Gabrielle Carteris.

The series chronicles the rise and fall of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF).

Lucas Van Engen, right, portrays Leo Wise in the HBO series “We Own This City.” (Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

It exposes the corruption and moral collapse that befalls an American city in which the policies of drug prohibition and mass arrest are championed at the expense of actual police work.

The series is created and written by David Simon, creator of “The Wire,” and George Pelecanos. Production took place in Baltimore. “We Own This City” airs at 7 p.m. Monday on HBO. It then streams on HBO Max.

Van Engen brings to life Leo Wise – the lead federal prosecutor assigned to the GTTF case.

Van Engen began the process with his audition of five pages of legal jargon.

“I spent eight hours over a couple of days making sure I could nail it,” he says. “I went through the ringer with this. I did two mock auditions before my real one. Everything was happening through Zoom, so there was that added pressure. I wanted to do a slight dialect and I tried it on my wife. She told me, ‘Just do you honey.’ That was that.”

Van Engen says the stakes are high with the series as it dives into police corruption.

“This came to my life as an incredible opportunity,” he says. “With that said, my narratives around race relationships, the drug war and policing, line up with what David wrote. We show how all of these actions damaged lives.”

Van Engen also looked up interviews with the real Leo Wise.

“He is incredibly intelligent and believed in what he does,” he says. “There wasn’t a lot work for me to do to fill Leo’s shoes. I did a lot of work on the script with my coach and found where I could bring myself to it.”

Van Engen also met the real Wise for dinner.

“I got to know him as a friend and as a family man,” he says. “Here is this man that is all business. That was really cool to discover. Plus, we had the same Warby Parker eyeglass frames. It was meant to be.”

As the series continues to air episodes, Van Engen hopes that an audience gets an opportunity to see both sides of the story.

“I hope there is less divisiveness,” he says. “And that some questions are answered. The war on drugs is a war on citizens and it’s a made-up war. It leads to incarceration of people of color in poor neighborhoods. I hope there can be a conversation of what the problem is and what the nuances are. It’s a systemic problem that has led to abuses of power.”

Van Engen has also used his down time from the series to help the next generation of actors through The Brownstone Class. The goal is that everyone that comes through his classes will eventually have to miss class because they booked paid work.

“I take everything I’ve learned and give it to the next group coming up,” he says.

Van Engen does also have a small connection to Albuquerque.

In 2010, he booked a job where he drove a lawnmower across the country.

“I literally drove this thing from Fontana, California, to Brooklyn,” he says. “My friend’s sister was in Rehoboth. I rode into Albuquerque and we did karaoke. I have fond memories in New Mexico. I would watch the sun set after long days of going six miles an hour. The terrain was gorgeous and it was pretty hot, but I didn’t overheat in New Mexico.”

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